You’ll probably have the bike and run trainers already, so it’s now time to get tri-specific with the purchase of a wetsuit, tri-suit and some open-water goggles. Thankfully – and despite tri’s reputation in some quarters as the preserve of the rich – you don’t have to spend a fortune to race, and we’ve been bowled over in recent times by paycheck-friendly releases that still deliver when it matters.
Total upgrade cost: £316
Bike aside, the tri-suit is the most important piece of race-day kit you’ll ever buy. It’ll be with you from the starter’s horn to the finisher’s tape, offering pockets and a gently padded bottom on the bike for comfort and breathability on the run. Huub’s Essential for £80 is hard to fault, while Aropec offers a host of impressive suits at a reasonable £50 price mark.
2 TRIATHLON WETSUIT
A surfing wetsuit may keep you warm and buoyant, but a tri-specific neoprene creation is a must for open-water UK races. Shoulder flexibility is just one of the benefits, as well as differing levels of neoprene thickness to keep you perfectly positioned in the water, warmth, easy removal cuffs and a neck that doesn’t rub. The Zone3 Advance does all this and more.
3 OPEN-WATER GOGGLES
Pool goggles may suit pool races, but the wider, more mask-like open-water specific goggle is nigh on mandatory for river, lake and sea swims. Comfort, peripheral vision and sun-tinting are all provided by OW goggles, as well as protection from any errant arms and legs. Aqua Sphere’s Kayenne, seen here, often score well.
5 ROAD BIKE PEDALS
Okay, it’s scary at first and every triathlete will take a slow motion tumble at a traffic lights in their career, but a pair of road pedals are key if you want to progress in our wonderful sport. You’ll improve your efficiency no end, with all your leg power being transferred to the pedal platform. Practise removing your feet on the turbo or in a park first, and you’ll soon be wondering how you ever managed without them. Shimano and Look are two of the market leaders, but LifeLine’s Essential Road are a bargain pair for £20.
6 BIKE SHOES
Like chips and ketchup, you can’t have pedals without the bike shoes, so look for a compatible and comfortable pair for your early tri ventures. Good ventilation, the ability to be worn sans socks, weight and the effectiveness of the straps are all further considerations. Shimano, again, has plenty of options out there; we like the SH-R171 (£130) but the £40 Shimano R065 served our early races well enough.
6 BIKE BOTTLE CAGE & BOTTLE
It’s such a no-brainer that it’s often forgotten, but a bottle cage and vessel provides the optimum way to replenish your liquid levels during the race. What you’ll lose in aerodynamics and gain in weight is more than made up for in time saved slowing for aid stations, and it’s a whole lot better than trying to consume liquid when it’s too late on the run. An insulated bottle such as the XLab seen here will also keep your race juice cool.
7 TRI LACES
There are few better ways to buy some seconds than with the tri lace. They’re a cinch to do up, won’t come undone and, due to the elasticity, will hold your foot in place. Greepers, Xtenex and Nathan lead the pack.